MY KARELIAN PROGRAM
For the Finnish Independence Day 06.12.2002
Dear teacher, dear fellow students!
Let's recall the original map of the Republic of Finland - "Maiden of Finland". Now it’s incomplete. Where is her left arm? There's an odd hole in her midriff, at Salla and Kuusamo municipalities. And isn't there a piece of fine fabric missing from her skirt?
Indeed, those are ceded territories, Petsamo, Salla, Kuusamo, Karelia and outer islands of the Finnish Gulf: Suursaari, Tytarsaari, Lavansaari and Seiskari.
Far too long there has been an unacceptable silence while Finns should have discussed the ceded areas. "C'mon, don't dare even talk about it" has been the attitude. There must be an end to this. Even President Tarja Halonen said to President Vladimir Putin that all issues have to be discussed.
Currently, Finland and Russia are equal countries and we can go to the negotiating table with peaceful minds, without a threat of being victimized by occupation. And even today there are people, who, as the Communist Party leader Mrs. Suvi-Anne Siimes, say in regard to the return of the ceded territories: "No. I wonder who are the people who still talk about it".
How did we ever end up this far? The legitimate borders of the Republic of Finland were defined by the Tartu Peace Accord on 14 October 1920 "eternally" as the treaty states. All peace accords prior to that, were signed by Sweden and Russia.
During the summer of 1939, Stalin and Hitler signed an agreement, with a secret protocol giving details about "spheres of influence" in Europe. In that agreement, Finland was part of the Soviet sphere of influence. As Stalin demanded territory from Finland, the "security of Leningrad" was just a pretext. Naturally, Finland could not accept this, and so started the Winter War, which ended, victoriously for Finland, at a defensive stalemate.
A very tough peace treaty was signed in Moscow. Finland lost Karelia and parts of Salla and Kuusamo, outer islands of the Gulf of Finland and some minor areas. Stalin and the Soviet Union were not satisfied with this. In 1941 they started the "continuation war", in which Finland again was able to stop the advance of the Soviet troops. Finland never was a threat to Leningrad, aka St Petersburg, as Finnish troops never attacked Leningrad, even if there was a possibility to do so.
The Paris Peace Treaty was signed in 1947. It was even harder, keeping in mind that the Soviet Union had only conquered one third of the ceded territories. After the war, the Soviet Union continued their pressure and interfered in the internal issues of Finland. The subordinate relation towards the Soviet Union became a new catchword, "Finlandization".
Both the Moscow peace treaty of 1940 and the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947 were signed under threat. In the Tartu Peace Treaty of 1920, both Finland and Russian Federative Soviet Republic were equal partners. That is one reason why the Tartu Peace Treaty is the only legitimate one between Finland and Russia.
There is no doubt that demanding the return of the ceded territories is justified. But are there any benefits? Yes, indeed, there are.
Those who oppose the return throw in some inconsistent arguments and thereby hinder any constructive discussion. Their comments come from the thin air, not from research of any kind. Those who want the return of the territories may be called daydreamers or simply racists who hate Russians. I cannot agree with that.
It is very difficult to agree with some stated opinions that such esteemed people as Doctors of Political Science Ilmari Susiluoto and Jukka Seppinen and Master of Political Science Martti Valkonen as well as Professor Yrjö Pessi or Archbishop of the Finnish Orthodox Church Leo might be racists or daydreamers. Yet all of them have contributed to a research paper by ProKarelia, on the return of these ceded territories. The paper has been published both as a book and on the Internet at www.prokarelia.net/en
Former president, Mauno Koivisto has voiced his opinion that Karelia to Finland is "surplus territory" and that Finland doesn't need it. Some may believe that the issue of returning these areas has to do with "Greater Finland" (a policy during the 1910s to the 1940s among the ethnic Karelians in the Russian-controlled Karelia).
To begin with, Karelia is not "a surplus" territory to Finland. Finland consists of all those areas that were defined by the Tartu Peace Accord in 1920. Anything minus is reduction, anything plus is addition. "Greater Finland" would mean something further east towards the Ural Mountains.
Secondly, Mr Koivisto’s statement means that Karelian people are ”additional Finns”, and Finland somehow would not ”need” them. I think that is pretty inconsiderately said!
Karelia and Petsamo are in such a bad shape environmentally that they are not worth returning, say the opponents. – Well, are these polluted areas so far from Finland’s borders that they pose no threat to the torso Finland? No way! Russia will not be able to clean these areas so Finland must take the initiative.
The only decent way to save these ceded territories, and their surroundings, is by returning them to be parts of Finland. How would one feel about taking a nap at the summer cottage on the shores of the clean Vuoksi River while watching the waves washing ashore, or to sun your skin on the dynes of Terijoki. This scene would be marred only by an odd, truly Finnish rain pour.
The return would be too costly and Finland cannot afford that. – This is the worst kind of make-believe. There is no research behind this statement. ProKarelia has made some calculations and has come up with the figure of 10 billion euros. The price is less than the benefits.
Finland suffers from unemployment figures hovering around 10 per cent. Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen’s promise to halve the figure in 10 years is not convincing. The return of the occupied territories would bring hundreds of thousands of jobs. One could take advantage of the natural resources in the region and trade across and around Lake Ladoga would be brisk.
Developing services could bring thousands of jobs. There would be a de-facto full employment in Finland. How about Petsamo then? Perhaps slightly polluted, yes, but there is the Liinahamari harbor that remains ice-free all year round. What a good access to the Atlantic Ocean and the oil deposits in the Arctic Ocean. Companies would compete to gain access to Petsamo.
After these arguments one comes to the counter argument that the whole issue is currently insignificant and concerns only a small minority of the Finnish population. A minority? Viipuri was Finland’s second largest city and clearly the most international one.
The ceded territories represented a tenth of Finland’s industrial production and arable land and an eighth of Finland’s territory and population. Of us 30 in this room, that would be four. In the minds of the rest 26, isn’t that much? Are we that selfish?
Up to 420,000 refugees had to flee their homes with a tiny hope of ever returning home. But returning home was forbidden, tours to former home were not allowed. The Soviet Union forbade Finns all visits to the area. To add insult to injury, even public speech about the issue was, if not completely forbidden, very close to that.
Western Finns had to give some land to the refugees against a small fee. And is that a big issue? Finnish refugees and the Finnish people are still suffering from the violation of human rights and Amnesty International is doing nothing to solve it. Accepting the deprivation of land means, at the same time, accepting all Stalin’s crimes against humanity.
There are people in Russia who are aware of all this. A Russian TV channel, NTV, recently made a document on the ceded territories. Mr. Boris Yeltsin condemned Stalin’s grabbing of land and gave this statement: “I and Mr. Ahtisaari cannot accept it”. A member of State Duma, Mr. Maki, did talk about these territories in Duma after the Soviet Union’s downfall. It was accepted then that Finland’s stand on the issue was expected. The official stand of Finland is to wait for Russia’s opinion. As a consequence, Finland should take the initiative.
Does Mr. Putin want to become a detested Finland-Eater or an appreciated leader who returns Karelia? By returning Karelia, Russia would distance itself from its Stalinist past. It would be the only basis for developing genuinely trustful relations between Finns and Russians.
The return would be a good way to bring the euro zone close to St. Petersburg, and to get the oil harbor in Koivisto integrated within the integral market of the EU. Returning the Finnish Karelia would also give a boost to Russian inhabitants to return to their roots. Many of the present inhabitants were forcibly transferred to Karelia from Ukraine and other areas.
The return would encourage nations to solve similar problems in Hungary, Japan and elsewhere. The image of Finland and Russia would considerably improve worldwide.
How would the return work out then? Naturally, ProKarelia’s “Return of Karelia” is a comprehensive study, and should be read by people representing both pro and con attitudes.
I will not go into the details of the return. As soon as the discussion starts, solutions will be found, in case the Foreign Ministry does not already have a completed package.
However, I believe there should be a temporary border between present Finland and the returned areas. Finns would be allowed to return to these areas, but the people who would stay there would fall under the Finnish Alien Laws. Despite of everything, quite a number of Russians would stay, but so what? Are we racists?
It really makes sense to see some Russians staying, as far as developing the region is concerned. Not everything should be rebuilt. There would be development and the present borderline would be removed later on. After a couple of years, present inhabitants could apply for Finnish citizenship, after learning the language. There’s no need for a new Stalin.
In conclusion, I ask, what is Finland doing now when part of our territory is under a foreign power? What does Finland and its decision-makers do as our dearest territory is being destroyed and polluted continuously? What does Finland and its people do when its cultural heritage in ceded territories is being wasted away and disappearing? The Viipuri castle is falling into decay, houses built by Finns are being destroyed. What does Finland do when Karelia is weeping and bleeding? – Finland and Finns keep silent.
But we can make a difference. Let’s talk about our territories, let’s encourage our politicians to raise this issue, let’s show that the people want to correct this injustice.
The general election takes place next March, and many of us will be entitled to vote. Let’s take care of Finland together, the entire Finland. Let us not vote irresponsible delegates to decide for us. I am sure that the party that adopts the return of stolen areas as its theme in this election, will wake up the sleeping voters and will gain a victory.
Karelia needs Finland and Finland needs Karelia! Let’s return the ceded territories!
Mr Mika Kahkonen (17), a high school student since 2001, gave this speech at his high school in Pirkkala (near Tampere) on 21 November 2002 to his fellow students.
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